Wednesday, October 20, 2010

DVD Review - Spartacus: Blood and Sand The Complete First Season

Spartacus: Blood and Sand defies the laws of nature: people have physiques chiseled from marble, ketchup-red blood spurts at unnatural rates, blades slice like buzz saws. That is to say, despite claims to the contrary in the foreword, Spartacus: Blood and Sand is not historically accurate, nor does it strive to be. Unlike Rome which had splendid, expensive sets and costumes, Spartacus is on a more meager budget, with small sets and CGI to fill in the blanks. It wants to be like 300, a wild panache of blood, sex, and plot twists--nothing more. There's no room for complexity or nuance.

Spartacus is the definition of a guilty pleasure, a show with no redeemable qualities, at least from an analytical standpoint, but is almost impossible to pull your eyes away from. The gory fights are longer than they should be, as the writers relish in decapitations, shallow cuts that sends gallons of blood flying, or various other limbs severed in single slices. The sex scenes are graphic beyond belief, showing everything imaginable--short of actual penetration. The language is as filthy as it gets, with modern curses thrown around every few seconds in reference to literally anything (variations of "fuck ____" and "stick your cock in ____" are the norm). A looming fervor lingers around every corner as the audience is always wondering what graphic display is next. Spartacus plays to our base, animalistic instincts--as gladiator fights did for the Romans--and does so to great effect.

Once the plot kicks into full gear--around the sixth episode--Spartacus could be considered a decent show. While the first few episodes of the show rely purely graphic displays to keep people watching, the writers show they actually have more to offer. Quick plot twists and entangled relationships emerge from a pile of guts and limbs, leading to a compelling narrative drive which comes to a bloody mess in the end (what more could you ask for?).

Now I wouldn't say Spartacus is anywhere near what we've seen on premium cable before, or even what it could have been, given a different intent. The acting in general is a pitiful affair and the dialogue is laughable. But what Spartacus does, which few shows do, is to let go, say fuck it, and just run with whatever the hell is there, boobs, bushes, penises and all.

Is Spartacus great television? No. Is it good television? Probably not. Is it fun television? Most definitely.

Score: 8.6/10
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